Indiana enacted its first Worker’s Compensation Act in 1915 in response to a growing number of workers injured on the job who had no guaranteed means of receiving medical treatment for injuries or wage replacement income during their physical recovery. Prior to enacting its first Worker’s Compensation Act, when an Indiana worker was injured, the worker was permitted to sue their employer in court in an effort to get compensation. However, lawsuits were time consuming, expensive, and frequently left the injured worker in a position where they were unable to obtain medical attention while their lawsuit was working its way through court because time was lost to address arguments from employers that the worker caused the accident or assumed the risk of the accident. The Workers Compensation Act struck a compromise between the competing interests of the worker and the employer and moved to a no-fault based system. In short, and in general, employers were stripped of the ability to claim the worker caused the accident. In exchange for this concession, injured workers were deprived from collecting pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life damages.
In today’s Indiana Worker’s Compensation system, this means when a worker is injured “on the clock” when they slip and fall, or are injured in a car accident, or are injured in a construction accident, the worker’s employer is not permitted to claim the worker should have paid more attention to what they were doing when the event occurred. However, some important employer-based fault arguments are still available to employers. For example, pursuant to I.C. 22-3-2-8, employers may raise affirmative defenses that no money is owed because the injury was 1) due to the employee’s knowingly self-inflicted injury, 2) due to intoxication, 3) due to the commission of an offense (not including traffic violations), 4) due to a knowing failure to use a safety appliance, 5) due to a knowing failure to obey a reasonable written or printed safety rule which has been posted in a conspicuous position in the place of work, or 6) due to a knowing failure to perform any statutory duty.
Disagreements often occur when an employer raises one of these defenses, and if left unresolved, a judge is asked to determine whether the employer’s defense is valid at a hearing. Like many areas in law, an exploration into the facts of an individual matter is usually necessary to assess the validity of these types of defenses. For example, just because a worker is intoxicated or impaired at the moment the worker is injured, it does not necessarily mean the employer does not owe compensation. Indeed, there is a difference between a drunk worker being injured when the worker drives a delivery truck off the road compared to a drunk worker performing his work satisfactorily when a co-worker accidentally drops an item from above that strikes and injures the worker.
Similarly, not every failure to use a safety appliance or knowing failure to obey a posted and written safety rule bars a recovery. When an employer allows the alleged prohibited conduct to occur or also engages in the prohibited conduct, the employer will not be able to shield itself from responsibility. As an illustration in an industrial or machine setting, if an employer posts an open and obvious sign that machinery must be shut down before it is cleaned, but observes employees cleaning the machine while it is not shut down, the employer will not be allowed to rely on a fault-type defense.
If you need help navigating a matter involving an injury at work where questions exist as to whether the employer may raise an argument that the worker is at fault for the accident, Goodin Abernathy, LLP can bring experience, knowledge, and resources to bear on the question. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Amputation Injuries at Work
During a legal seminar I attended last week, an Indiana Occupational Safety and Hazards Agency (“IOSHA”) representative presented information covering work place injuries. The representative explained that since March 2015, new reporting and investigation regulations require IOSHA to investigate amputation injuries across the state. The presenter was clearly surprised how many work place amputations occur every day. This safety initiative is designed to investigate problems, enforce safety codes and prevent ongoing hazards for Indiana workers.
Amputations and Worker’s Compensation
The Goodin Abernathy LLP lawyers are not surprised by these findings because we frequently help clients who have suffered amputated fingers, hands and arms. Many of our clients need help understanding what Indiana worker’s compensation benefits are available for their damages. These benefits include lost wages from time off work (TTD or PTD), payment of medical bills, physical therapy and psychological counseling, or payments for their impairment due to permanent physical disfigurement (PPI).
The Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board uses a table to calculate the money owed for amputation PPI ratings. https://www.in.gov/wcb/index.htm What injured workers need to know is that employers and their insurance companies are obligated to address impairment ratings – but many times the workers are not told of these benefits. Also, the calculations and settlement offers insurance companies make do not always match the reasonable or fair value of a PPI rating: especially in amputation cases.
GA’s Indianapolis attorneys understand the medical and therapy plans needed to fully address amputation recoveries. We are also experienced in evaluating the correct PPI calculations for claiming impairment benefits with all types of amputations. Indiana has recognized the pervasive problems of amputation injuries. This article describes the problems and also discusses a case where a worker suffered two amputations, two different times on the same machine! (click here)
If you need help understanding which benefits are available for your recovery from an amputation, call us. If you need help calculating the extent of your amputation injury and the its recognized impairment value, contact us and put our experience to work. Goodin Abernathy LLP will uses its experience, resources (including expert medical review) and legal background to represent you. Don’t get cut short twice with your amputation – call us for legal help.
FAQ for IOSHA Regarding Amputations
What is the FFCRA and Do I Qualify?
What is the FFCRA and Do I Qualify? by www.goodinabernathy.com
Effective April 1, 2020 and continuing through December 31, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) will require certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and/or expanded Family Medical Leave for reasons related to COVID-19.
There are essentially 2 parts to the Act. Part 1 is an emergency expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Part 2 requires certain employers to provide Federal Paid Sick Leave.
The Act applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees. This includes both full and part-time employees. This number also includes dual employees, such as those provided by professional employment organizations (PEO’s) also known as staffing agencies. There may be exceptions for “extreme financial hardship,” but the Department of Labor has not yet produced any guidance for what that means.
The Act also provides for a “Distressed Small Business Exception,” which only applies to employers with 50 or less employees. Again, because this law is so new, there is little to no guidance from the Department of Labor as to who will qualify for this exception.
So, what does the FFCRA require employers to do?
Generally, all employers must provide their qualifying employees with:
Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined either (1) pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider, and/or (2) is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; AND up to 10 additional weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of COVID illness or a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.
FAQ’s about the FFCRA:
How does an employee qualify for these FFCRA benefits?
Some examples include:
- Being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.
- Having symptoms of the virus.
- Being required to be in self-quarantine.
- Being ordered by your doctor to self-quarantine.
- Having to care for a spouse or child who is infected with the virus.
- Another common example will be caring for a child whose school or daycare has been closed because of COVID-19 – Or having substantially similar condition based on guidance from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Can both parents claim paid leave under the FFCRA?
There is nothing in the law that suggests that both parents would not be entitled to paid leave if they otherwise qualify for the benefits.
Can my employer require me to use paid sick leave before paying benefits under the FFCRA?
It depends. The expanded benefits to FMLA do not kick in for the first 10 days, therefore you may be required to use unpaid sick leave to cover that gap. The mandatory sick leave would not require you to use accrued unpaid leave.
How much pay am I entitled to receive?
It depends on whether you are seeking the expanded benefits of the FMLA, or the mandatory paid sick leave. Normally, a qualifying employee is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA. The new law expands that to include paid leave of two-thirds of base pay based on number of hours normally worked. The maximum is $200 per day, or $10,000 per employee, based on 12 weeks of eligibility.
The mandatory paid sick leave under the FFCRA is capped at $511 per day, with a total benefit of $5,110 per employee.
How are employers expected to pay for these FFCRA benefits?
The government has rolled out several plans to help small business employers pay for these new benefits. One option is a dollar for dollar tax credit for payments made. A second option is a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover payroll costs. If certain conditions are met, and all of your employees remain on the payroll for a specified period, these loans will be forgiven (they don’t have to be paid back). Lastly, some employers may have business interruption insurance that could be applicable. Definitely check your policy to determine coverage.
Can my employer disclose my diagnosis of COVID-19?
Yes, under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to HIPPAA’s confidentiality requirements. For example, an employer can disclose such a diagnosis for the safety of your co-workers.
What if I contracted COVID-19 at work, will workers’ compensation cover my treatment?
There is much we don’t know about how the new laws will be interpreted, and whether a diagnosis of COVID-19 could be considered an occupational disease. Certainly, for those on the front lines fighting this disease, for instance health care workers, an argument could be made that it is a risk of the job.
If I have to provide these FFCRA benefits, my business will be forced to shut down. Are there any exceptions?
Yes. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
If I have to take leave, can I get my job back when I return?
Yes. The new law requires employers with 25 or more employees to reinstatement after 12 weeks. If your employer has less than 25 employees they must “make reasonable effort” to reinstate an employee who has taken leave under the Act.
In these uncertain times, it is always best to know your rights. If you have questions about Coronavirus/COVID-19, and your entitlement to benefits under the new laws, please contact us for a free legal consultation. We are not currently taking in-person interviews in our efforts to avoid unnecessary spread of the virus, but we are always available for telephonic consultations.
An injured worker potentially has two legal claims to recover damages. First, they have an Indiana Worker’s Compensation claim against their employer. Second, they may be able to collect from a responsible third-party.
Each state has its own work injury laws. Indiana’s system starts with making a claim through a government agency – the Worker’s Compensation Board. This agency operates very similar to a court. Papers are filed, attorneys are used and hearing members make decisions like judges. This link takes you to the main page for the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Board website. https://www.in.gov/wcb/ Go to the bottom of the page and look for a translation button. You can change it from English to Spanish, if necessary.
Another easy way to learn about Indiana’s worker’s compensation laws is to watch my YouTube videos. Search for Legalmente Hablando Indy or Goodin Abernathy LLP on the YouTube website. Here is an introduction video Jim Browne recorded that covers worker’s compensation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHV1TB21TZ4 You will learn that work injury claims allow employees to claim these benefits: medical costs, lost wages and a permanent partial impairment rating. The medical costs include charges for an ambulance, hospital, doctors, nurses, physical therapy, medicine, x-rays or MRI’s.
If a treating doctor orders an employee not to work for medical reasons related to the injury, the employer must pay for lost wages or salary. This is called Total Temporary Disability (“TTD”). The worker is paid 66.66% of her regular pay. But tax is not applied to the money. So if the worker usually earns $100.00 per week, then the employer owes $66.66 for each week the employee is unable to work.
Finally, if the injury is serious, the worker may claim a Permanent Partial Impairment. This idea is to compensate workers for physical and work problems they will suffer in the future. The State of Indiana created a list of dollar values for these injuries that limit a worker’s recovery. I can usually help improve the financial recovery for my clients.
Indiana requires employers to carry worker’s compensation insurance. If a worker is injured on the job, the employer’s insurance will cover these costs. If the employer does not have insurance, the law allows the injured worker to make claims against the contractor who hired the employer for the job. Frequently I help clients step up the ladder and find insurance to collect from.
If a person or company, other than the employer or a co-worker, causes a worker injury, then we can make a “third-party” claim for negligence. Negligence law is different from the worker’s compensation claim. Those cases are opened in a typical court with judges. A big difference between the two cases involves damages for pain and suffering. An injured worker can claim damage for pain and suffering in a negligence claim – but not in an Indiana Worker’s Compensation claim.
We are experienced handling various types of third-party negligence claims. Sometimes they are against construction companies where the general contractor has a legal, contractual duty to provide safety for workers on the job. We have handled claims where workers for other companies cause an accident. For instance, an electrician was on a scissor lift. A plumber drove a fork lift over the lift’s electric cord, pulled the it over and caused our client to fall 20 feet. Or, we have clients who were driving a vehicle for their job when another car caused them a wreck.
Remember, insurance companies are in business to make money- not pay it out. They are professional and know the law. That is why you should call me for legal advice. I give free consultations to review these cases with clients. I explain the law for your specific evidence and describe how I charge for my service. You will meet with me in person, speak Spanish and review the case. My staff speaks Spanish and knows about these cases Don’t wait – contact us now!